Autism and Asperger Syndrome

Autism and Asperger Syndrome
Asperger Syndrome is an Autism Spectrum Disorder (ASD), distinguished by a pattern of symptoms rather than a single symptom. Like other psychological development disorders, ASD begins in infancy or childhood and has a steady course without relapse. Asperger Disorder describes individuals who may not have ASD but do have autistic-like traits. It appears to be a result from developmental factors that affect many functional brain systems. Individuals with this disorder display  significant difficulties in:


The lack of demonstrated empathy (possibly the most dysfunctional aspect of AS)
Impairment in the use of non-verbal behaviour (eye contact, facial expressions, gestures) during social interactions
Lack of development in relationships
Failure to seek to share enjoyment, interests or achievements with others
Failure to reciprocate emotions or gestures
Often overly sensitive to sounds, tastes, smells and sights, the person with AS may prefer soft clothing, certain foods and be bothered by sounds or lights no one else seems to hear or see.

It’s important to remember that the person with AS perceives the world very differently. Many behaviours that seem odd or unusual are due to those neurological differences and not the result of intentional rudeness or bad behaviour, and most certainly not due to ‘improper parenting’.

ASD differs from other autism spectrum disorders by its relative preservation of linguistic and cognitive development. Behaviour patterns include:

Unusually intense preoccupation with one or more stereotyped interest
Obsessively following specific, non-functional routines or rituals
Repeated motions such as hand or finger flapping or twisting
Unusual, intense preoccupation with parts of objects/narrow subject
Clumsiness/ atypical use of language.

Although the criteria state no significant general delay in the development of language milestones, what you might see is a ‘different’ way of using language. A child may have a wonderful vocabulary and even relatively advanced reading ability, but not truly understand the nuances of language.
Abnormalities include: verbosity, abrupt transitions, miscomprehension of nuance, auditory perception deficits, unusually pedantic, formal or idiosyncratic speech, oddities in loudness, pitch, intonation and rhythm. Social pragmatics tend to be weak, making the person appear as if walking to the beat of a ‘different drum’.

Delayed or mistaken diagnosis can be traumatic for individuals and families; for example, misdiagnosis can lead to medications that worsen behaviour. Many children with AS are initially misdiagnosed with A.D.H.D.
Diagnosis is commonly made between the ages of four and eleven. Those with AS have a normal IQ and many individuals (although not all) exhibit exceptional skill or talent in a specific area. They are often viewed as eccentric or odd and can easily become victims of teasing and bullying.

The ideal treatment for AS is a combination of therapies. A typical treatment programme includes:

Cognitive behaviour therapy (to improve stress management relating to anxiety/explosive emotions, to cut back on obsessive interests and repetitive routines)
The schooling of social skills
Medication for co-existing conditions (major depressive disorder, anxiety disorder)
Occupational therapy to assist with poor sensory integration and motor co-ordination
Social communication therapy (Speech therapy to help with the pragmatics of a normal conversation, the training and support of parents, etc).

Your child generally possesses a number of assets upon which you might build such as:

A strong knowledge base for individual topics of passionate interest
The desire to conform to rules and boundaries
Retaining information best when it is visual, sequential and linear
Best understanding logical, concrete topics of discussion
A willingness to please and keep trying.

The most significant thing you can do for your child with Asperger’s is to value and indulge his most passionate interest (with an eye towards a future vocation), and promote the development of a relationship with at least one friend.  In doing so, your child will be better poised to thrive in life.
Many of the weaknesses can be remediated with specific types of therapy aimed at teaching social and pragmatic skills. Although it is harder, adults with Asperger’s can have successful relationships, families and happy and productive lives. Pray God’s Word and His promises over your child and trust Him for the best. 

Jesus: The Greatest Gift of All Time

Jesus: The Greatest Gift of All Time
The man who pioneered mass production of motor vehicles, Henry Ford, said that the most successful person would be the one who would fill the greatest need the best.
There is no doubt that Jesus Christ remains the greatest person who ever lived because He made the greatest sacrifice to fill the greatest need for the greatest number of people. The sheer thought that God of the universe, would send His Son to die for mankind, is amazing. “For God so loved the world that He gave His only begotten Son, that whosoever believes in Him should not perish but have everlasting life.” John 3:16

For all who have accepted Jesus Christ as their Lord and Saviour, as the greatest gift of all time, we can reflect on what He has done for us – and what He does for us on a daily basis:
We were dead in our trespasses and sins, and Jesus came that we may have life and life in all its abundance. “For the wages of sin is death, but the gift of God is eternal life in Christ Jesus our Lord.”  Rom 6:23
We need forgiveness for sin and freedom from sin. He sent His Holy Spirit to empower us to live according to God’s ways. (Rom 8:1-12)
We need life, love and light. God is love, Jesus is the Way, The Truth and The Life and He is the Light of the world. He is the abundant giver of all things good (John 10:10)
We need Grace – undeserved favour – and it is in Jesus Christ that we find the mercy we so desperately need. “For by Grace you have been saved through faith, and that not of yourselves; it is the gift of God, not of works, lest anyone should boast.” Eph 2:8-9
We are lost, and He is the Good Shepherd Who shows us the way. We are often deceived and confused, but He is the Truth. “And you shall know the Truth, and the Truth shall make you free.” John 8:32
We were bound in sin and condemned, but there is now no condemnation for those in Christ and “if the Son makes you free, you shall be free indeed.” John 8:36

A gift, by definition, is something that we did not earn, but which we receive from someone else’s generosity. A gift is appreciated either because of the giver that you have received it from, or because of the value attached to the gift. 
If you received a gift from the Queen of England, I’m sure that you would greatly appreciate that prize. If any Head of State were to award you something, you would probably talk to others about it and display the item most prominently.
Consider if you were in a court of law, and required to pay a fine that is way beyond a lifetime’s earnings. Imagine if somebody else’s sacrifice paid your fine and set you free. Would you be grateful? How might you express your gratitude? If that person asked you to do something, would you not willingly and eagerly do it? Jesus said: “If anyone loves Me, he will obey My teaching…” John 14:23 God our Creator has poured out His gifts upon you. Your life. Your talents. Every moment of every day, every breath you breathe and every ray of sunshine is a gift from the hand of our Creator. The splendours of His Creation. Wonderful wildlife. Our friends and family relationships.

Jesus lived the perfect life that you and I should have lived; He died the sinless death we deserved to die. He has paid the punishment for our sins. Not only has He won for us eternal salvation, but He offers us adoption into His family as sons and daughters of the King of kings and Lord of lords. 
Have you repented of your sins? Have you confessed where you have broken God’s Holy Law? If God was to judge you on the basis of His Ten Commandments, would you be innocent or guilty? If you were to die today, would you go to Heaven or hell? “It is appointed for men to die once, but after this the Judgement.” Heb 9:27
Have you asked for His forgiveness and accepted the gift of eternal life through Jesus Christ our Lord? Are you living in joyful gratitude for all His mercy and undeserved favour? Are you introducing other people to the greatest gift of all? To whom much is given, much is required. Freely you have received. Freely give.  Make this Christmas your best Christmas ever by accepting God’s gift of adoption into His family and inviting others to receive the greatest gift of all. “Thanks be to God for His indescribable gift!” 2 Cor 9:15 

Cultivating Meaningful Friendships

Cultivating Meaningful Friendships
We have all been hurt and let down by loved ones or a close friend at some point in our lives. And yet, every person has that deep longing for companionship and true friendship.Indeed many of us surrendered our
lives to Christ because He offered the unconditional, eternal and enduring friendship we had been longing for. We long for meaningful friendship, because we have been created in the image of God – who by His very nature is a relational God who enjoys fellowship with His people. Why is it then, that Christians (who all have the love of Christ in common) often experience shallow friendships with other believers and even leave the Church because of the wounds of a friend? So often I have heard Christians say that they enjoy better friendships with their unsaved friends and will never trust a fellow Christian with matters of the heart – because the believer will always let them down. This is very sad, because actually, a Christian should be one who loves much (Prov 17:17) and a faithful friend lifts you up when you are down (Ecc 4:9-12).

According to Webster’s 1820 dictionary, a friend is “one who is attached to another by affection; one who entertains for another sentiments of esteem, respect and affection – which leads to desiring their
company and promoting their best interests.” Wow! How many of our friendships today in the 21st century can be described like this? Sadly as our world has grown more technologically dependent, and people have become increasingly ‘cocooned’ in their houses, the bonds of friendship have weakened and diluted down to mere acquaintances. It seems today that most people prefer superficial, easy, non-committal friendships to those that are enduring, involved and time-consuming. And yet we all desire true friends with whom we can share our most intimate fears, hopes, dreams and happiness with.

A significant reason why so many people have isolated themselves and maintain superficial friendships is because of hurt. Past hurts, unforgiveness, offences and disappointments have shaped the way many of us relate to others. We have become more guarded, less giving (and less forgiving) in the way we deal with others. It is an age-old scheme of the devil to isolate people and to allow bitterness to fester in their hearts, as this keeps people in bondage and makes it very difficult to reach them for Christ. It is so sad when we hear of Christians and non-Christians, who’ve written off faith in Jesus because of a friendship that has turned sour. In John 13:35, the Lord says that people will know we are His disciples, because of our love for one another. Is the world seeing the depth of true, meaningful loyal friendships amongst Christians and desiring to know God because of it?

I think people are battling to overcome hurt and disappointment in their friendships because they do not have a proper understanding of the different levels of friendship. Often one person may see a friendship as more committed than the other – and this miscommunication is the perfect breeding ground for offence. Social analysts have identified four levels of relational interaction, best illustrated as a circle with concentric rings.

In the outer-most ring you have strangers – people with whom you may come into contact once or twice, (such as a chemist, a bank teller etc) but with whom you have no relationship (other than being cordial).
Often these strangers become acquaintances, when you seem to have constant interaction with them. (This would include clients, fellow church members, parents at your child’s school, etc). An acquaintance
is generally a person you have something in common with, and someone with whom you would make small chat (hopefully sincerely!). The next level would be ‘general friends’. These are either acquaintances
(of either sex) who have gradually been converted into general friends (as you have both pursued a friendship), or could include childhood mates, family friends, people in your home group, etc.

General friends would be interested in your life to some degree, would probably wish you happy birthday if they remembered and would most likely attend your funeral one day. The next level of friendship would be
close friends. These are people who you spend a significant amount of time with, people who you would regularly socialize with or keep in contact. Often close friendships span years and have been formed over different periods in your life. (For example, you would have close friends from your childhood, from university, church, your children’s school and your work place). Close friends fulfil different functions
– some share memories and good times with you, others are mentors and share business interests with you.

Still others would be friends who share Christ and church life with you, whilst others may be unsaved friends whom you share family holidays and general social activities with. For every level thus far, you should have a variety of friends, both old and young, saved and unsaved, with whom you share your life. (Hopefully you also share the Gospel with them!) Studies have shown that long-term Christian converts have come to Christ through a friend…because it is only in the safe-bounds of friendship that people are willing to listen and to open up. The next most personal level of friendship would be your ‘inner circle’; your ‘bosom buddies’; your best friends. At this level, the amount of friendships decrease significantly as it is virtually impossible to maintain close, very intimate friendships with more than three or so people. Time just does not permit it.
Also, practically speaking, it is very difficult for you to walk closely with more than one or two at a time, or to be accountable to a whole host of friends.

Your inner circle should predominantly include Christians of your same sex. Why? Because your inner circle are the people who speak in to your life, who advise you on problems and big decisions, and people who ultimately shape you because of the amount of time you spend together. These friendships affect our physical dayto- day activities, our emotional well being and our spiritual growth. (Prov 27:17)

There are many tips to building true friendships, but space restricts us from going into detail; however there are excellent books available (like ‘How To Win Friends and Influence People, Dale Carnegie’) that will give you helpful hints. We encourage you to read them! The essence of cultivating meaningful friendships is this:

Meet the best friend you could ever have – Jesus. He is the “friend who sticks closer than a brother” Prov 18:24. Allow Him to meet your deepest needs and complete that relational void that no human canever fill
Be a friend to make a friend. Most people are insecure and stuck in a comfort zone – which means they are unlikely to pursue a new friendship with you. Sow friendship to reap it (Gal 6:7-9)
Evaluate what a person is looking for (in your friendship with them) so that you have realistic expectations and don’t get disappointed. If they want a casual ‘surface’ friendship and you envision a life-long intimate connection, you will be hurt.
Don’t give too much too soon in a friendship(i.t.o. sharing your heart) but, don’t hold back either and keep people at a distance because of past hurts
Communicate openly and honestly with your friends. If they have let you down, or hurt you with disloyal behaviour, express your feelings and then forgive
Have fun! Some people make very draining friends. If you don’t have many friends, do a bit of introspection and ask God to show you if/what you do that chases people away
Choose your friends wisely. Proverbs 13:20 says that a man is the company he keeps
Keep an open mind and heart w.r.t making new friends. Often God sends people across your path who you would not necessarily choose as a friend, yet they are more committed and loyal to you than those you want to befriend
Recognise that some friendships are seasonal. It is very hard to let go when a friendship turns sour, or just fades, but it is possible the season has finished for you and that person
Finally, remember that all relationships requirethe risk of vulnerability.

The Joy of Our Inheritance in Christ

The Joy of Our Inheritance in Christ
In Russia many years ago an elderly mother was being moved from her home into the poor home provided by the state. One of the men assisting in moving the furniture noticed on the piano a picture of a young man. “Is that your son?” he asked. “Yes”, said the mother, “he’s gone to America and I am left alone.”
“But I heard that he has done very well,” said the young man. “Hasn’t he ever written to you? Doesn’t he send you any assistance? Has he not taken care of you better than this?”
“Oh, he’s written,” she said, “but all he ever sent were little pictures. I suppose they are only pictures of his friends, but they look rather old for him. I have kept them in this box waiting for my boy to come home and tell me who they were.”
She pulled out a box and in it were hundreds and thousands of ten, twenty, fifty and hundred dollar bills. She was rich and she never knew it.

So many Christians are like that old lady. They are rich beyond what they realise or imagine, yet continue to live as paupers. Like the prodigal son we can claim our inheritance now and we don’t have to squander it in some far country.
Now, don’t just hear ‘money’, ‘wealth’ and ‘material possessions’ when you consider the inheritance we have in Christ. Our inheritance and the blessings of God extend to far more than just material possessions. It includes the gift of eternal life, the gift of the Holy Spirit, friendship with God, fellowship with Christ, the wisdom of the Lord, healing, joy, peace, comfort, guidance, forgiveness and so much more.
Christians have been given all authority on earth; we are more than conquerors – which means that we should be living lives full of the joy of the Lord. The Bible says that “all things are yours” 1 Cor 3:21 and “No good thing will He withhold from those who walk uprightly.” Psalm 84:11. As John D. Rockefeller remarked, “The man who has nothing but money is poor indeed.” All of these riches and treasures are small change compared with the spiritual wealth we have in Christ.
In Ephesians, the Apostle Paul explains to us what these riches are and how we may draw on them to move our Christian living into top gear.

The blessings that God promises us are spiritual blessings. There are many groups that promote the so-called, ‘prosperity gospel’ which promises material wealth as a sign of God’s favour and more often than not leads to feelings of guilt and inadequacy. But the blessings that God promises us are spiritual blessings which we inherit as children of the King.
He promises to supply all our needs “according to His riches in glory by Christ Jesus” Phil 4:19, but He does not promise to shield us from either poverty or pain. The Father has given us every blessing of the Spirit, everything we need for a successful, satisfying Christian life. The spiritual is far more important than the material (Read Ephesians 1:3).
God knows all about us. He is aware of our sinfulness and inadequacies. Yet He has given us a holy inheritance.

He has made provision for us to live without blame and above sin. In Revelation 12:10, satan is called the “accuser of the brethren.” He is the one who constantly fills us with guilt. But in Jesus we are no longer under condemnation. Don’t let the enemy deceive you and mislead you. Don’t allow the enemy to pull you down to his level.
No matter what has happened in your past – God has forgiven you and wiped the slate clean. You stand before God as holy and blameless because of the work of Christ. We no longer live under that dark cloud of sin and guilt. We are free, blameless and holy in Christ Jesus “So now there is no condemnation for those who belong to Christ Jesus.” Rom 8:1 (Also read Ephesians 1:4).

One of the most difficult things to deal with in life is rejection. It is a horrible feeling and we all have experienced it one time or another in this life. The rejection may have come because of your race or colour, it may have come in a personal relationship, it may come when you are overlooked for a promotion or selection for a sports team. It comes in many forms and can adversely affect our self image and confidence.

This world will always reject you. You are set up to be hated by this world; they hated your Master, so arm yourself likewise. This includes the religious world. Do not marvel at this. Jesus also faced rejection, “He came unto His own, and His own received Him not.” John 1.11
We can draw strength from this astounding, amazing, magnanimous truth: that God Almighty has accepted you as His child. This is the key to overcoming this world. Our acceptance in Christ is the basis for constant serenity and peace. God’s absolute acceptance of us is based upon His wonderful Grace and love towards us in Christ.

David Livingstone once addressed a group of students at Glasgow University. When he rose to speak, he bore on his body the marks of his African struggles. Several illnesses on nearly 30 occasions had left him gaunt and haggard.
His left arm, crushed by a lion, hung limp by his side. After describing his trials and tribulations he said, “Would you like to have me tell you what supported me through all the years of exile among people whose language I could not understand, and whose attitude toward me was always uncertain and often hostile? It was this, ‘Lo I am with you always, even unto the end of the world’.” Matt 28:20
On these words he staked everything, and they never failed. He was God’s child and he knew that God would always be with him and Jesus would never forsake him. (Heb 13:5). We are totally accepted, loved and cherished by God. Read full article in new issue of JOY! Magazine